Johns Hopkins is arguably the school most synonymous with collegiate lacrosse, having captured nine NCAA titles and appeared in 28 Final Fours.

But just one year removed from playing in the NCAA final, Hopkins found itself 3-4 at the season's midpoint. Senior Brian Christopher said the lacrosse community and the media began to write off the Blue Jays.

The team didn't buy it.

With a trio of Philadelphia natives playing prominent roles, Hopkins turned its season around, reeling off six straight wins to finish 9-4. The Blue Jays qualified for their 38th consecutive NCAA tournament, which begins tomorrow with their noon game against Brown. It will be shown on ESPN2.

"I know our team and our coaches; their expectations never change," said Christopher, a graduate of Springfield(Delco) High School. "We always try to make the playoffs, get to the Final Four, and win a national championship every year."

Having lost several key players from last year's squad, Christopher said the Blue Jays just needed time to mature. That included sophomores Kyle Wharton and Matt Dolente.

Wharton, a Haverford School alumnus, led Hopkins with 40 points, which included a team-best 31 goals. He also led the squad with six game-winning scores.

Dolente, a Malvern Prep graduate, came off the bench to record a team-best 60 ground balls and win 51 percent of his face-offs.

"They both saw some time their freshman year, but they're seeing more time now," said Christopher who finished with 36 points, on 25 goals, including two overtime game-winners.

"They were both starting behind two star players that graduated," he said. "I think they did a great job sitting in the shadows of those guys, and stepped in this year and filled their shoes."

These players aren't the only natives of the area in the NCAA tournament; 13 of the 16 teams have at least one local player on their roster. However, Hopkins has the most serving in major roles.

"It's great to see Philly lacrosse grow so quickly," Dolente said. "Every year, there's more and more players coming from high school to play at top-tier programs. It's exciting to be part of that growth."

All-Americans. Five local athletes were named Under Armour all-Americans yesterday, including three from La Salle High - goalie Niko Amato, and defenders Tucker Durkin and Tyler Knarr. Haverford goalie Dan Wigrizer and Malvern Prep defender Billy Conners were also honored.

They will play in the fourth annual Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic on June 27 at Towson University.

Five Local Players to Watch

Michael Colleluori, Hofstra (Ridley H.S.) -- Colleluori topped the Pride with 21 assists while finishing second on the team with 33 points. The senior midfielder was named First Team all-Colonial Athletic Association.

Sean Delaney, North Carolina (Moorestown H.S.) - The junior midfielder finished tied for third on the Tar Heels with 39 points (32G,7A).

Duncan Swezey, Notre Dame (Hatboro-Horsham H.S.) - The senior attacker led the Fighting Irish with 20 assists and finished tied for third on the team with 42 points.

Eddie DiDonato, Villanova (La Salle H.S.) - The senior defender played a key role in the Wildcats' first NCAA appearance, recording 39 ground balls. DiDonato was named Second Team all-Colonial Athletic Association.

Kyle Wharton, John Hopkins (Haverford School) – The sophomore attacker led the Blue Jays with 40 points, including a team-best 31 goals.

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